It's time for the Wales versus the Campbells, which is not a war of soup companies or a family feud. Instead, it's the NHL's all-star game.
Players from each of the divisions within the NHL's Prince of Wales and Campbell conferences begin the league's brief midwinter break today, preparing to square off against each other Tuesday night.
Washington Capitals' fans can cheer defenseman Rod Langway, who will wear a Wales jersey, as will former Capital Ryan Walter, who was voted to the star team for the first time after being traded to Montreal last September.
Plenty of other hockey talent will be in the lineup for the league's 35th all-star event (8 p.m., USA cable), enough for each coach to piece together the kind of roster usually available only on trading cards.
"It's really an event where you showcase all the talent," said Al Arbour, who is coaching in his third consecutive all-star game. As coach of last year's Wales Conference champion New York Islanders, Arbour will patrol the Wales bench.
Roger Neilson, whose Vancouver Canucks lost to the Islanders in last year's Stanley Cup finals, will coach the Campbells.
For Arbour, this all-star duty is becoming downright routine. Two years ago, he coached his first in Detroit, when his Campbells (this was before the NHL's realignment switched the conferences) played the Wales, who were led by Gordie Howe to a 6-3 victory.
A year ago in Washington, Arbour's Wales, helped by MVP Mike Bossy's two goals, defeated the Campbells. And now Abour says he's excited about this one, mostly because it's on the Islanders' playground.
"You really don't do a lot of coaching, though. You look at the players you have and try to make balanced lines. You just let them go out there and play their game. It's for them and the fans."
The fans who come to this one--a sellout of the 15,230-seat Nassau Coliseum--are paying dearly to see the starting lineups voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Tickets for the game range from $20 to $30. This compares to the high of $29 for a Stanley Cup ticket last spring.
But players insist the folks will get their money's worth. "There might not be too many dramatics there tomorrow night, but you'll see a very entertaining hockey game," said Denis Potvin, captain of the Wales stars. "For a player, you can't play (in) this game often enough. I realized that last year when I couldn't get there. It's the one game you miss if you're not in it."
Potvin and a few of the other Wales starters, as well as the Campbell team and both coaches, talked briefly at a press conference this afternoon.
Marcel Dionne, captain for the Campbells, had not yet arrived, but Calgary's Lanny MacDonald substituted at the microphone.
"Some people think this is a chance to sit back and relax, but we're not here to do that," MacDonald said. "The all-star game gives guys a chance to play with people you've admired from afar, players you've dreamed of playing with. This makes the dream come true."
MacDonald aimed a barb at Neilson, nicknamed Captain Video because he leans heavily on use of videotape in his coaching. "Roger already told us we won't be available to talk to anyone this afternoon," he said. "We'll be too busy studying the video."
Neilson's team will have a substitute backup goalie, from his own Canucks. Richard Brodeur, who injured an eardrum Saturday, will be replaced by John Garrett. Garrett only joined Vancouver late last week and has played a total of two minutes for the team, following Brodeur's injury, but the all-stars had to choose him. Brodeur's absence would have left them without either a Vancouver player or a second goalie.